Frequently Asked Questions
1. Where did the Beagle come from?
With ancestry dating back to 200 AD., the beagle was originated to hunt/trail small game (the hare and rabbit) by scent. The early development of the breed took place primarily in Great Britain. Imported from England to the U.S. early in the history of this country, beagles were used not only for the pursuit of game for food, but also are hunted as packs or braces for the pleasure of the sport.
Hare hunting with small hounds was popular in England as early as the 14th Century, and while these hounds were likely of beagle type, that breed name was not yet in use. The actual origin of the name “beagle” is uncertain. It may have been derived from the old French “be’geule”, meaning “gape throat” and referring to the baying voice of the hounds when in hot pursuit of their quarry. It has also been often suggested that the term refers to the diminutive size of the hound, possibly deriving from the Old English “begele”, or perhaps the French “beigh” or Celtic “beag” (all of which mean small).
While the little beagles of the Elizabethan period were persistent pack hunters, possessed of great stamina and keen noses, they were lacking somewhat in speed and dash, and failed to remain in favor very long. During the mid-18th century, foxhunting was growing in popularity among those who wished to pursue a more exhilarating sport than watching hounds puzzle out the intricate mazes of the hare. (In fact, the larger breeds of foxhounds and harriers were developed from the crossing of beagles and other scent hounds - the beagle was not "bred down in size" from the foxhounds, a common misconception.)
A revival of interest in hunting with beagles began around 1830, and the Rev. Phillip Honeywood is credited with being the chief pioneer. Most of the foundation hounds of the breed in this country (USA) were imported from the finest British hunting packs. These were truly “dual purpose” beagles, possessing both correct conformation and field abilities. The first definite operations of which there is record credit General Richard Rowett of Carlinville, Ill. as being one of the earliest importers of beagles during the 1870’s, aided in part by Mr. Norman Elmore of Newark, NJ. The Rowett strain of beagles was later carried on by Mr. Pottinger Dorsey & Staley Doub of MD. These hounds were known for their uniform type, and bench show quality of conformation combined with remarkable field ability.
2. What colors do they come in?
The American Kennel Club and National Beagle Club of America recognize "any hound colors" as acceptable. Hound colors include all shades and combinations of white (or cream), black, tan/lemon/red, brown/liver, blue/grey, and the colors of the hare or badger. The color combination which most people associate with a Beagle is the black, tan & white tricolor, with a black saddle marking, and white occurring in an "Irish spotting" pattern on the face, neck, legs and tail tip. Second most common color combination is probably the red & white coloring, also known as lemon & white or tan & white depending on the depth of color. Tricolors can also occur which have a "faded" black saddle, or with the dark pigmented areas being brown/chocolate/liver in color, or even with the black or brown pigment diluted to blue or lilac. Patterns of markings in beagles can range from predominantly solid black & tan, to the typical "Irish spotting", through open marked or piebald hounds where the background is white with smaller patches of color. Blue tick or red tick hounds are those with heavy speckling known as "ticking" throughout the white portions of the coat (also called "mottles").
3. How big will my Beagle get?
Beagles are a small to medium sized dog, typically ranging from 10" to 16" in height at the shoulder when mature. In the USA, our breed standard disqualifies beagles which exceed 15" in height from participation in conformation or field trial competitions; most other countries recognize 16" beagles as the desired maximum height. Divided into two varieties for competition purposes in the US, the under 13" variety typically weighs less than 20 lbs., and the 13" to 15" hounds range from 20 to 30 lbs. It helps to keep in mind that parents of either size can and do produce offspring of either size, often within the same litter. An experienced breeder may be able to give you a good estimate as to the future, adult size your beagle might reach . . . but no one can be expected to guarantee the eventual, exact height at maturity.
4. Do Beagles require a lot of grooming?
Not especially, although ears and feet will require special attention. Beagles have a smooth lying, hard, medium length coat with a finer undercoat. Females will "blow" their coat after each season, and males will "blow" once a year, generally when the weather grows warmer in the spring. A good brushing once or twice a week is usually sufficient to keep your beagle's coat clean and healthy. A bath in warm water when the coat starts to loosen up will hasten the shedding process, and keep your dogs clean too. Otherwise, bathing is rarely necessary, unless your hound has found something smelly to roll in. The beagle's pendulous ears are especially prone to developing infection or ear mites, and will require weekly checks and careful cleaning. Toenails also require regular attention, with frequency of trimming dependent on how well your beagle wears them down during his normal, daily activities.
Grooming the beagle for show ring competition, however, is a whole different story. Current trends include trimming, stripping and sometimes even clipping of the coat to neaten the appearance and create a stylish outline.
5. Are they noisy?
The normal, active Beagle will bark when strangers arrive, at the neighbor's cat or trespassing wildlife, and at strange goings on in the neighborhood. But beagles in general are not nuisance barkers, unless given good reason to do so. Beagles can, on rare occasion, become prone to howling if they are left alone for long periods of time and become bored. As a result of their hunting heritage, beagles may be quick to bark when they discover an intriguing scent, and will “tongue” (produce a baying sound) when in pursuit of their quarry.
6. Do Beagles have a hound odor?
The typical house beagle does not have any noticeable body odor. The one exception might be an unspayed female during her estrus cycle, due to the vaginal discharge. In general, unless your beagle finds something odiferous to roll in, the family companion hound is a clean and pleasant smelling character. Dogs will often develop an offensive odor quite often if anal glands need expressing or if they are on a food too low in fat content.
Usually, when we hear remarks about a smelly beagle, it is one that has been housed outdoors, and continually runs through or rolls in urine and feces or other interesting scents. To a beagle, these odors can be somewhat appealing. But this is clearly different from any natural body odor of the hound.
7. Are Beagles good with children?
In most cases, yes! Beagles tend to love social interaction with people, and children especially. Well bred and socialized beagles are very gentle with youngsters, and they can be wonderful companions for older children as they typically enjoy attention, rough housing, and interactive activities such as playing ball. The beagle is a "big dog in a little package"; small and unthreatening, yet sturdy built and ready for action. The one area of caution, however, concerns food. Beagles take their food very seriously, and so children must be taught to understand that the hound should be treated with respect and never to tease or approach a beagle while eating.
8. Are they "one man" dogs?
Not particularly, since beagles are such social hounds. As a "pack animal" the beagle makes a wonderful family companion; he loves the entire family. They are easily adaptable to new situations and new people. Beagles that have been raised and socialized in the home are truly "people dogs"; they need companionship and are rarely happy without their human pack members around them. While highly adaptable, it is important to remember that every hound is different. Some Beagles will enter a new home & act like they've been there their entire lives. Others may take a few days to settle in.
9. Are Beagles nervous or shy?
Not typically. Beagles are friendly, social animals that enjoy companionship and have a zest for life. Beagles can sometimes be a little reserved towards strangers, but to people they know they should be loving, and outgoing. A shy, nervous Beagle is not typical of the breed, and may have been poorly socialized. Occasionally an older dog will be shy due to the treatment in a previous home and love, good care, and patience can usually bring around these animals. Again, individual personalities vary. While most beagles will be true social extroverts, an occasional hound may prefer the quiet and security of their own home setting.
10. I've heard that you should not buy a dog that is inbred. What does that mean?
This is not true. Dogs are bred in three ways: Inbred...which generally refers to the very closest breedings of mother/son, father/daughter, sister/brother... Line bred - which is a less severe form of Inbreeding, such as half sister/half brother, granddaughter/grandfather etc., or by Out crossing...which is having no related animals within three generations. There is NO single right way or wrong way to breed dogs, and all three types of breedings can potentially produce acceptable quality puppies. When a breeder inbreeds, it simply means they are attempting to intensify traits within a family line for breeding/competition purposes - to make an animal "dominant" in the hard to get areas of quality. Inbreeding/line breeding do not create shy or sickly animals any more than out crossing, and an outcross dog does not have more vigor than a line bred animal. Inbreeding or line breeding merely increase the chances that certain traits will be intensified, whether those traits are desirable or undesirable. Most breeders will selectively utilize all three breeding practices in their breeding programs at some time, and line breeding is the most common practice.